Rather than curse the younger generation who are in the dark about how to cook, it’s better to light a candle and show them how to “get ’er done.” That’s the approach taken by two dairy companies, Kraft Foods and Land O Lakes. Dairy Foods honored each with an Editors’ Choice award in our Best New Dairy Products of 2012 program.

An engineer would say these dairy processors took a systems approach to product development. Kraft’s FreshTake is a cheese-and-bread-crumbs kit for making chicken cutlets (or escalope, if you want to move it upmarket). The home chef measures neither cheese nor crumbs nor seasonings. The protein (chicken or fish) and dry ingredients are mixed in a plastic bag so the chef never touches the raw meat. This product succeeds at the consumer level because it helps a cook solve a problem (how to make dinner quickly). It succeeds at the processor level because Kraft found a way to sell more cheese.

[Note: Listen to a podcast with Kraft's David Gacom about the development of FreshTake.]

Sauté Express from Land O Lakes is essentially a compound butter (with olive oil) to bring flavor to chicken, pork or fish. If you watch any cooking competition on cable TV, you know a chief complaint is “under-seasoning.” Sauté Express removes that objection. Land O Lakes found a way to bring butter back into the kitchen and to help a consumer prepare a meal quickly. Furthermore, the chef doesn’t have to buy spices or add salt and pepper at the table because the 1-ounce Sauté Express portion contains all necessary seasonings.

Both companies have found new “usage occasions” for their foods. Elsewhere in dairyland, yogurt makers are developing recipes calling for their food. These sorts of innovations involving dairy foods as ingredients will help dairy processors grow sales.